The Tennessee State Legislature has wrapped up its 2022-2023 session. As expected, several new criminal laws are now in effect or will soon be in effect. This article will summarize some of these developments.
Admissibility of child forensic interviews
Effective April 6, 2023, Senate Bill 419/House Bill 557 expands the admissibility of a forensic interview to include certain statements made by a child under 18 years of age. Prior to this change, such videos were admissible only if the child was under 13 years of age.
This law also expands the content of the admissible forensic interview from comments made by a child describing sexual contact performed with or on the child by another to statements describing sexual or physically violent contact performed with or on the child by another or performed by a person with or on another and witnessed by the child. This law applies to all courts and at all stages of court proceedings if certain requirements related to the experience of the forensic interviewer are met.
Enhanced sentencing for especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated rape, or rape
Effective July 1, 2023, Senate Bill 18/House Bill 5 requires that a person convicted of especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated rape, or rape be sentenced within at least a Range II offense. In Tennessee, a Range II sentence for aggravated kidnapping or aggravated rape, both A felonies, is 25-40 years. A Range II sentence for rape, a B felony, is 12-20 years.
Effective January 1, 2024, this new law also expands the requirement to register as a sexual offender to all defendants convicted of a kidnapping offense, rather than only defendants convicted of kidnapping minors.
Criminal immunity to persons experiencing a drug overdose
Effective July 1, 2023, Senate Bill 256/House Bill 75 (considered a good Samaritan bill) offers immunity to those who call 911 to seek medical assistance for themselves or others due to drug overdoses. The law defines “seeks medical assistance” as accessing or assisting in accessing the 911 system; law enforcement or a poison control center; or providing care while awaiting the arrival of medical assistance.
Current law allows for immunity only to the person experiencing the overdose and applies only to those experiencing their first overdose. This bill will give prosecutors discretion to grant immunity to those experiencing subsequent overdoses as well.
Expunction of public records regarding implied consent violations
Senate Bill 361/House Bill 412 authorizes the expunction of public records regarding a driver’s alleged implied consent violation. In other words, a motor vehicle operator’s refusal to submit to breath and blood tests to determine alcohol or drug content may be expunged from an individual’s criminal record, under certain circumstances.
As with other felonies and misdemeanors, a person with an implied consent violation on their criminal record may apply for an expungement if the charge was dismissed, a no true bill was returned by a grand jury, or the person was arrested and released without being charged.
Tennessee Businesses Against Trafficking Program
Senate Bill 1212/House Bill 115 requires the Secretary of State to establish and implement a program designated as the Tennessee Businesses Against Trafficking Program to engage participating corporations and other private entities in voluntary efforts to identify, prevent, and combat human trafficking. Entities that participate in the program must adopt a zero-tolerance policy toward human trafficking, take measure to ensure that the business and its employees comply with the rules of the program, participate in training and public awareness campaigns, and enhance awareness of and encourage participation in the program.
Electronic monitoring devices for prisoners on work release
Effective January 1, 2024, Senate Bill 562/House Bill 452 requires a prisoner of a county workhouse or jail who is released from custody and allowed to leave the grounds to perform work (paid or unpaid) to use an electronic monitoring device at all times. It requires the employer or person utilizing the prisoner for the work to pay the costs of the monitoring service.
Penalty for destruction of critical infrastructure property
Effective July 1, 2023, Senate Bill 467/House Bill 482 enhances the punishment for attacks on critical infrastructure. This bill increases the punishment from a Class E felony to a Class C felony – when the damage is over $1000.
Treatment and transdermal monitoring device requirements for DUI offenders
Effective July 1, 2023, Senate Bill 328/House Bill 144 lowers from 25 to 17 the required number of days a person convicted of a second DUI must spend in jail before becoming eligible to participate in a substance abuse program.
This bill also requires a judge to order a person charged or convicted of a third or subsequent DUI or DUI related offense to wear a transdermal alcohol monitoring device for at least 90 days of continuous sobriety upon release on probation or on bail (unless the person’s criminal case ends before completion of this period).
Liability for individuals that provide cars to intoxicated persons
Effective July 1, 2023, House Bill 1198/Senate Bill 1318 creates a criminal offense for providing a motor vehicle to another person who the provider of the vehicle knows or should know is under the influence of an intoxicant or whose driver’s license has been suspended or revoked under certain circumstances. As written, a person who violates this law is subject to a sentence of a minimum of 48 hours incarceration.
Anti-drag law blocked through the end of May
A bill that has gained a lot of attention – Senate Bill 3/House Bill 9 creates an offense for a person who engages in an adult cabaret performance on public property or in a location where the adult cabaret performance could be viewed by a person who is not an adult.
A federal judge temporarily blocked the law from going into effect March 31, stating a temporary restraining order would apply for 14 days unless the court elected to extend it. That 14-day period would have expired Friday, April 14, but Judge Thomas L. Parker, with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, extended the temporary restraining order until May 26. A preliminary injunction hearing is scheduled for May 22.
With Tennessee’s criminal laws changing every year, it is important to consult with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney. With decades of experience defending criminal charges in Tennessee and Georgia, the legal team at Davis & Hoss is ready to help individuals facing criminal allegations. Contact Attorney Lee Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 423-266-0605 for more information.